Lotta Balls, Lotta Balls Wall 5.8
Avg time to climb route: 2 hours
Approach time: 1 hour
Descent time: 2 hours
Number of pitches: 3
Height of route: 600'
OverviewThe classic of the area, Lotta Balls was a scary face in the pre-sticky rubber days. Randy Grandstaff drilled the 1/4” bolt in 1977 while standing on small knobs, and amazingly it was not replaced until 25 years later! While modern sticky rubber may make the moves easier, it is still an intimidating lead for the 5.8 leader. Killer crack and flake climbing, the namesake knobby face, and a cool dihedral are the highlights. Many people rappel off the top of the second pitch to avoid the walk-off, which, while fairly short, has 3 short rappels, some 4th class scrambling, and brush, trees, and loose rock.
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HistoryFA: Betsy and Joe Herbst, Randal Grandstaff, Tom Kaufman, 3/77.
The first ascent of this route was accomplished in March 1977 by Joe and Betsy Herbst, Tom Kaufman, and Randal Grandstaff. This was an impressive assembly of the first wave of Red Rocks pioneers. Joe Herbst was the granddaddy of modern Red Rocks climbing. Most conspicuous for his first ascents of the original “big three” walls (Rainbow, Velvet, and Aeolian), he was also the driving force behind a spectacular array of long free climbs and high quality crag routes. With his quiet competence and strict clean climbing ethic, he became a role model and inspiration for the emerging generation of locals who would carry Red Rocks climbing into the future.
Randal Grandstaff was the first of that new generation. He was a young teenager in the early 1970s when he befriended Joe, who was only a few years older. A few years can mean a big difference to an enthusiastic 14 year old with a passion to climb. Joe’s experience (he had been to Yosemite and climbed El Cap!) represented the goal toward which young Randal aspired.
Tom Kaufman was not a local Las Vegas resident, but his close friendship with Joe meant frequent visits and many climbs. If you leaf through the first ascent list in the back of Joanne Urioste’s original 1984 guidebook, you will see many references to “Joe Herbst and a friend.” It’s a pretty good bet that the “friend” was Tom Kaufman. One of the main sources of information for the guide was Joe’s notebook where he recorded his first ascents. The entry was usually signed by the participants. As a young M.D., Tom had already perfected the illegible scrawl for which his profession is famous. His signature was thus generally unidentifiable when Joanne was compiling the guidebook following Joe’s withdrawal from climbing several years later.
On the first ascent the quartet had an easy time with the clean crack and flake of the first pitch. Above them lay the “surreal” face dotted with numerous spherical protrusions of uncertain security. Joe led the initial fifteen feet of pitch two, and drilled one of his infrequent bolts from a small dished out stance. The difficulties increased above. “The real credit has to go to Randy,” says Joe. “He’s the one who stood on those little marbles above my crummy bolt and drilled a good one to protect the tough moves.” Tom coined the name for the route based on his dire predictions of the effect of the protruding knobs on the anatomy of a climber taking a slider off the crux.
– Larry DeAngelo
ApproachWith a long approach, First Creek Canyon is paradoxically one of the easiest approaches for the canyons of Red Rocks. While it is a long walk, it is on an old, flat jeep road for most of the way, with only a few sections of sandy wash bottom to slow you down. Since the trailhead for First Creek is outside the Loop Road, and since the climbs are mostly short with simple rappels, climbing in First Creek Canyon is among the most flexible in Red Rocks.
DescentRappel most routes and reverse the approach.
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